Current Problems With U.S. Healthcare

Current Problems With U.S. Healthcare

A perspective on the current problems Americans face regarding healthcare, especially when considering economics, social climate, and politics.

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"Hi, this is Jacqui, how may I help you? Oh hi Jo! What are you up to? Oh, work is just slow today, so I'm just sitting at the front desk. Yeah, yeah, I saw that whole fiasco on TV last night. Honestly, she dominated him in the debate. No, I don't think he's going to win again, especially with the blue wave taking over the country. When she wins, we can finally get this country back on track…"

"Nurse"

"Sorry, Jo I have to go," Jacqui said as she hung up the phone. "Hi Ma'am, how may I help you?"

"Hi, I'm here for my 11:30 am appointment with Dr. Guerrero," the woman said breathily, her forehead gleaming in sweat.

"Let me check to see if the doctor is available, but I doubt he is at the moment, especially with you arriving so late. It's 12:15 pm"

"Yes, but it took me over 1.5 hours to get here!"

"I'm sorry to hear about that Mrs.-"

"Gutierrez"

"Well, again, I'm sorry that that happened Mrs. Gutierrez, let me check if your doctor is still available". Jacqui then reaches for the phone. "Yes, ok, sounds good, thanks. Mrs. Gutierrez, Dr. Guerrero will be able to see you at 12:45 pm if you are available"

She clasped her hands, stating "Yes, that's great!"

As Jacqui began to do data entry, Mrs. Gutierrez started speaking again.

"I am not usually late, but I swear that this wasn't my fault; my insurance chose this doctor for me.

Jacqui then paused, and asked "Can you explain? I don't understand"

"Ok, so, after enrolling in the state health insurance, I chose my preferred doctor and saved her name on the website. However, when later calling her office for a time to call, it said that the line was disconnected. Then I tried another doctor that would be covered, but then I was directed to another office telephone number. And when I called that number, his number was also disconnected. Two weeks after deleting my doctor preference and giving up on this, I receive a card from the state health insurance, assigning me to this doctor in Queens. But I live up in the North Bronx, this made no sense to me"

"You're from the North Bronx?"

"Yes, and I, in the end, remained with seeing Dr. Guerrero because I could not change my primary care provider in time. Furthermore, I had to wake up very early today, and take the subway for 1.5 hours in order to get to this office, on top of the subway delays"

"Wow, I'm so sorry to hear about that, I-"

"Hi, my name is James Redmok, and I have a procedure with Dr. Atkin today" the second man stated as he walked up to the front desk.

"Hi James, yes, I see that. Let me go over a couple of important details about the procedure with you. First, unfortunately, your state health insurance is not going to cover all of this operation, and due to that, the amount owed will be-"

"What do you mean that the operation is not covered?"

"I mean that your operation involving radiation and eliminating the cancer is not fully covered by your insurance. After calculating the amount you will have to pay out of pocket, around $40,000" she said.

"$40,000! I can barely afford to keep the payments on my car and kids at the moment. I thought that my insurance policy stated that they would cover my operations and procedures related to my disease"

Jacqui slowly took off her glasses, folded them, then stated "But since it is on the experimental side, general health insurance policies usually do not cover specific or rare procedures such as this"

"So, what should I do now?" James stated as he began to look through his wallet for his credit card. "There had to be a solution to this," he thought.

As he continued to do this, Jacqui noticed that a patient was in the process of being transferred from IC to their department. When seeing this, she had James sit down next to Mrs. Gutierrez, and went to speak with the new patient.

"Hi, my name is Jacqui, let me see what I can do for your today" she stated to the woman. After looking at the charts, and seeing the label "INSURANCE: NOT PROVIDED", she asked her " Do you have any health insurance?"

The woman froze for one long minute and finally declared "No".

When Jacqui asking why the woman began to explain her story.

"So, the reason why I do not have health insurance is that I can't pay for the high premiums in healthcare. After switching to Obamacare, I found that while my personal income did not increase, the prices of drugs and services did. As a result of this, I had to resort to cutting down the usage of my car and looking for other places to live.

"Have there been any penalties for not having healthcare, especially with the Affordable Care Act being passed"

"Yes, I receive monthly a fine because, under Obamacare, it's almost mandated that you be on healthcare insurance anyway. So what am I supposed to do?"

"Yes, I understand" Jacqui nodded.

"I mean, I either have to choose between putting food on the table for myself and my family, or for paying for my own healthcare myself. And because of the rising prices in Big Pharma and brands, it is barely affordable for me and a lot of other people now... So, do you know what the approximate cost is going to be for the emergency room services?"

"Well, your total cost excluding overnight is going to be around $30,000," Jacqui said quietly.

"And if I had health insurance?" he asked her.

"Less than $1,000 USD" she stated,

"The woman then got up slowly from the patient chair, running quickly down the hall.

Jacqui walked out to the back room and tried to calm herself. After a couple of minutes of being overwhelmed by the three previous people that day, she was allowed to leave at 5 pm. After getting into her car, she drove off from the hospital, and even passed her house, exiting off to lanes labeled "Airport".

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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Life In The Mountains Of New Mexico

In 2013, I embarked on the greatest adventure of my life with the Boy Scouts with the Philmont expedition

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At least once in your lifetime, you've probably gone on a family camping trip. Maybe even a scouts camping trip.

You know the drill:

Campfire, tents, marshmallows, a guitar, bug spray, animals. And if things get too extreme, there's always the car to hide in during the middle of the night in case things get too cold or uncomfortable in the tent.

But what if I told you that you could go on a camping trip so challenging and extraordinary, that your own life may depend on wilderness skills.

The camping trip I went on in the Summer of 2013 was exactly that with the two week Philmont expedition in the middle of New Mexico. It had been about half a year since I turned 18 and earned the highest honor in the Boy Scouts with the Eagle Scout rank. But with this Philmont expedition opportunity, I knew that my full potential as a Boy Scout had yet been reached.

My Philmont Boy Scout group included my brother, members of our Scout Troop 149, and a few other Pennsylvania-based Boy Scouts. Our journey actually did not start in New Mexico, but in Denver, Colorado where our flight landed. The first adventure we embarked on was going down the Colorado Rapids. It was such an exciting raft trip through the rivers of Colorado and the rocky landscape surrounding us was fantastic.

I'll never forget being in the hotel the night before our arrival at the campsite and seeing the mountains in the distance. You could see the lightning strike in the distance and could count long it took for the sound of thunder to arrive, indicating how close the lightning actually was.

What was a typical day like during our never-ending hike through the mountains?

It consisted of hiking while carrying huge backpacks, carrying our concealed meals for every day of the week. There were no convenient stores or grocery markets nearby, we had to carry every meal with us during our 10-day journey and having them exposed to the air was not an option.

Any trace of smell, or smellables as we called them, had to be captured and contained in a bag which we had to tie up and suspend in the air as it dangled from a tree. That was important because it prevented bears or any form of wildlife from finding us while we slept overnight. It was not only a procedure we had to follow to save us, but also to save the animals because if they found the scent of a smellable item then they're lives were in jeopardy too. Philmont authorities may be forced to execute animals who discovered and were used to a new scent exposed by the Boy Scouts.

The only time we caught sight of a bear was when my brother spotted one in the distance while we hiked. We were extremely quiet in trying not to disturb it and could also see a cub with it.

I also recall getting out of my tent one morning and all-of-the-sudden a deer, a doe, and a fawn all sprinted in line across the woods, about thirty feet in front of me.

Our favorite animals in Philmont, however, were called Mini-bears. Too big to be considered squirrels, but too small to be bears, mini-bears were all over the hiking trail as an advanced type of squirrel. They were the most likely to find and eat our food, but we loved them nonetheless for being consistently around.

Even brushing your teeth was a chore. You couldn't slab on a typical amount of toothpaste and brush, you had to put a small dab of the toothpaste on the brush and had to swallow it all. No sinks or toilets to spit into, no trash cans. If you had to throw up, you better swallow that too because you'd be screwed.

Wanna drink some water? You gotta find a streaming river and fill it against the current, then put in a tab to dissolve in and make it clean. How about a travel mule? Just kidding we didn't take one, but it was an option.

We had to wear reusable clothes, there was no laundry, everything down to socks and underwear had to be conserved. The closest thing to cleaning them was hanging them to dry at our campsite. (All the clothes I wore in Philmont I use to this day, they're perfect for exercise.)


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The height of the trip was the opportunity to climb the highest peak in the Philmont mountain range with Mount Baldy. It was such a long trek up the peak of the mountain that my group and other teams were singing songs like Taylor Swift's "Love Story" and "Bohemian Rhapsody." When we finally reached the top of Baldy, the view spoke for itself. We could see clouds near us and saw the lands below us like pictures on a map. It was simply breathtaking.

Despite the challenges and incredible circumstances we faced on a daily basis, Philmont was the greatest bonding experience I had ever been a part of. Our entire group came together fully understanding that we as a group were as strong as our weakest member and that the slowest person would lead the trail, no man was left behind (that guy was occasionally me.)

We went on plenty of adventures and met plenty of great people working throughout the mountains. Some were pretending to be living in the early 20th century, others were guiding us through challenges like pole climbing (THE WORST) and rock climbing.

The days were long but well spent, the weather was almost always nice, and the views down the trail were often breathtaking. When our trip finally ended we were glad to finally shower and get comfortable back in our own homes, but wouldn't have changed a thing about the experience.

Philmont was the greatest adventure of my life (so far) because it felt living through a J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novel with me playing the role of Bilbo Baggins. All that was missing were orcs, dragons, an epic battle and Enya music.


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